DVD REVIEW: Ghostride The Whip (The Story of the Hyphy Movement

Ghostride the Whip tells the real story behind hyphy’s historic evolution and diverse cultural expressions through its unsung hero, Vallejo rapper and underground legend Mac Dre. Directed by DJ Vlad, the film showcases artists at the forefront of Hyphy’s rise to popularity, such as Bay ambassador E-40 and ‘hyphy’ terminologist Keak da Sneak, who have the late Bay Area rapper to thank for championing the hyphy movement before it even had an official name.    Narrated by Sway, the film traces hyphy back to the Bay Area’s rich history as a center of nonconformity. It chronicles the southern slave migration, the rise and fall of the Black Panther Party, and the reign of drug dealers and pimps in the crack era.  Ghostride the Whip shows the influence of Bay Area pimps such as Fillmore Slim in the music of Oakland rapper Too $hort.   In the local underground, the charismatic Mac Dre embraced the Bay’s unique Hip-Hop culture, which included early hyphy music, turf dancing and car sideshows.  Footage borrowed from local DVD series such as Sideways of Bay Area natives “driving crazy” puts the more popular images of ghostriding to shame.    The documentary unravels the tragic story of Mac Dre. Mac was close associate of Vallejo’s infamous Romper Room Gang, who became notorious in the early 1990s for pizza parlor stickups and 50 armed bank robberies. In the film, Romper Room member, J-Diggs recollects how Dre’s association with the Rompers brought police scrutiny, harassment, and false conspiracy charges that culminated in a five-year jail sentence.  Neither a snitch nor a coward, Dre did the time and recorded entire albums from prison, releasing songs such as “Punk Police” that openly ridiculed the authorities.   Upon his release from prison in 1996, Mac Dre shifted his music in a celebratory direction, establishing a diverse following that spread beyond the West Coast.  As MC Hammer puts it in the film, Mac Dre was “a step away from being embraced by the nation.”  But like fellow Oakland-born rapper Tupac, Dre was not without enemies. Dre became a martyr for the Bay Area Hip-Hop community when he was murdered on the way home from a concert in Kansas City. Mac Dre’s death helped bring about a surge in hyphy’s popularity.  Mainstream attention has resulted in some diverse interpretations of Hyphy, and Ghostride delves into these at some length. While the attention given to crossover knockoffs is less compelling then other parts of the storyline, it nonetheless offers some choice comic moments. More importantly, the film succeeds in revealing the essence of the Hyphy movement through the tale of its folk hero, Mac Dre.

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